Over seven years ago, a copy of Bank Travel Management magazine (now Select Traveler) was delivered to Security State Bank in Littlefield, Texas.
The bank didn’t yet have an established travel program. But after reading this unfamiliar publication, employee Cecilia McCamish was intrigued.
“As a lover of travel, I was excited about starting this kind of program at our bank,” she said. “But I wasn’t so sure anyone else would be as enthusiastic.”
To her delight, the bank president encouraged her to attend the next BankTravel (now Select Traveler) conference. “I attended and came back gung-ho. We immediately started to plan for the launch of Funchasers,” said McCamish, Funchasers director.
A Big Tent
The bank originally intended to have requirements to become a member of Funchasers, but it was soon discovered that inquiries about the upcoming travel program were coming from younger people and others who did not have accounts at Security State Bank.
“We backed off on that idea even before our launch,” said McCamish. “We realized that every traveler could be a potential customer, and consequently, there are no restrictions on who travels with us.”
Funchasers today has 150 members, and McCamish has the luxury of traveling with groups of as few as eight people. The bank’s largest group had 24 travelers.
“With eight people on a Mediterranean cruise, it was heaven. For 15 days, including a few days in Rome, we enjoyed Naples, the Greek Isles, Turkey, Croatia and Venice. Traveling in small groups is ideal.”
Funchasers takes one domestic and one international excursion a year. Because of the bank’s location, McCamish explained, they do not pursue day trips.
“There is really no place close to go. There is a resort in New Mexico that is four hours away, but everyone and their dog has already been there,” she said with a laugh.
McCamish admitted that her personal judgment is perhaps the best gauge when choosing where to travel.
“If I’m enthusiastic about a destination, then I enthusiastically sell it,” she said.
As a result, McCamish and her group have traveled to Switzerland, Austria, Bavaria, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, the Panama Canal, Hawaii, Alaska and many other destinations. Another favorite excursion was an upper Mississippi River cruise on the American Queen. The group enjoyed that so much that McCamish is considering taking them on a Columbia River cruise on the American Empress.
“I’m also booking a trip to Israel for 2015,” she said. “With concerns about the Middle East, quite a few people have said I’m crazy. But I’m excited about this faith-based tour.”
All Funchasers travels are documented real-time on McCamish’s blog, and after arriving home, she creates a video with music traditional to the destination for each traveler.
Road Trip Training
McCamish’s desire to see the world developed from humble beginnings when many years ago, she and her husband took their small children on road trips that included a “pop-up trailer.”
“We didn’t have a lot of money and still wanted to take vacations,” she said. “We even took two weeks to travel all the way to Glacier National Park, seeing sights along the way. The kids recall it as our ‘northern trek.’ We stopped every night at a different campground and had the assembly and disassembly of that pop-up trailer down to a science.
“Today, the kids look back at those vacations and say, ‘Mom would lose it at least once on every trip,’” she said.
This good-natured bank director admits she cannot afford to “lose it” on her travels with Funchasers.
“Very few times have things gone 100 percent smoothly, mostly thanks to airline delays and cancellations,” she said.
Funchasers’ flights originate at the small airport in Lubbock, Texas, and they typically have a series of connections to and from their worldwide destinations. As a result, McCamish has a lengthy list of hair-raising travel tales featuring tornadoes, volcanic eruptions and “good old mechanical failure.”
“This is why it’s great not to be doing this on my own,” she said. “I have the help of wonderful tour operators who have been lifesavers during desperate times.”